Lee Gregory has come a long way since being released by Sheffield United and, by his own admission, falling out of love with the game.
The Millwall centre-forward, who failed to make a senior appearance for tomorrow’s visitors to The Den, credits a spell in non-league with rekindling what is now proving an extremely profitable affair.
“Football is a lot about opinions and you need the right person to like you,” Gregory, the Londoner’s leading goalscorer this season, said. “My attitude has always been the same. I’ve always wanted to be a professional footballer and for that time, between 16 and 25, it never happened.
“It’s just a case of not giving up. It’s a bit easier for a striker than any other player just because I could have a bad game but still score. As a defender and midfielder, they have to keep up their game week in, week out to get a move.
“There are a lot of players in non-league that you think, ‘they should definitely be playing at a higher level’. Whether it’s their attitude, or opinions again, then they are not going to get a move. But I guess I was in the right place at the right time.”
Gregory trained as an electrician after leaving Bramall Lane as a teenager. Having previously impressed for Staveley Miners Welfare, he was offered a route back into professional football with Mansfield Town but it was at Halifax, where he encountered Leicester City and England striker Jamie Vardy, where his career really took off.
“I played with Jamie for six or seven months,” Gregory, who joined Millwall two years ago, said. “He was a very good player then. He was one of those players who would do nothing for 80 minutes and then score three goals in the next ten. He could use both feet and was so quick that no one could deal with him.”